Why do projects fail and how to fix them.

You’ve heard the stereotypes:  Business analysts thinks IT is a socially awkward group with zero business savvy. IT, meanwhile,  scoffs at analysts inability to keep up.   So many projects depend on IT-business alignment, and so many fail.

Why do projects fail, who’s to blame, and how to fix the them?

This is a trick (and tricky) subject, because there are many contributing factor to a less then successful project.  If it’s a small enough project, you may be able to pinpoint a specific area or reason.  But even then — it’s not really that specific item or event but how we respond to that specific item that often causes the breakdown.

I think it’s safe to say that  “who’s to blame” is the person in search for someone to blame.

The act of “finger pointing” is the breakdown.  Individuals are no longer working as a team to contribute collectively to the shared vision or goal.  “Finger pointing” is actually a great tool to indicate something is amiss.  Good leaders use these as early indicators to re-evaluate and take action.  Good leaders use this time to re-emphasize the common goal, the vision, and the team’s success criteria. Good leaders can easily articulate individual roles in supporting and accomplishing that shared vision – and bring the group back on goal.

Good leaders aren’t necessarily the biz executives or project managers.  They are not defined by titles.  Good leaders are those with good leadership skills that lead from within.  Any person, at any level, can provide this service (and good leadership is service oriented).

Projects often “fail” because we simply fail to clearly articulate the vision and the project’s “success criteria”.  We also don’t successfully communicate it to each stakeholder and team member.  Successfully communicating the vision and success criteria is a 2-way street.  Good leaders need to verify that the message not only is received, but is translated to “what it means to me” to each role, task and stakeholder.

How to fix this is as difficult as finding what to fix.  Clearly communicating the project’s vision, mission and success criteria is a great start.  Having each member of the team paraphrase and articulate that same message – but specifically associating it with their role and responsibilities in the project will assure the crew is rowing in the same direction, and at the same pace.  Having each member understand the other team-members’ role (in regards to the success criteria and vision)  will increase appreciation for each other.  Often times partnering or mentor/shadowing to solve a shared concern helps.

The quickest way to fix the communication issue is to avoid assuming it’s someone else’s job to fix.  We can all work toward understanding and articulating the project goals, vision, and success criteria.  We can all work toward appreciating what our co-workers bring to the table to support the mission.  If we don’t know the mission or success criteria, we’ve absolutely found the problem.  Then it’s our job to ask, and go on from there.

Stephen Covey from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People — work on projects as well.

Especially “Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind” and  “Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be understood”

Let me know if this helps.


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